The Big Idea
Motivation isn’t always a natural resource
Questions I Answer
- How can I stop procrastinating?
- What are some tips to help me get more motivated?
- How can I motivate myself more?
Actions to Take
- Use one of these strategies this week & see if it doesn’t get you just a little bit closer to where it is you want to go with your life. I promise you, it can make a difference! You have the power inside of you to move forward & to make things happen.
Key Topics in the Show
3 reasons we tend to procrastinate & how you can work around them
Using fear as motivation instead of letting it paralyze you
6 tips to help you overcome procrastination
What internal focus of control is and how it will help you become more motivated
Welcome to season nine of Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton, a podcast focused on using productivity, not just to do more, but to achieve what’s most important to you. Join Tanya has she kicks off the New Year with a special season titled, New Year True You. To get her free checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast. And now here’s your host Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello, everyone! Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton and this is episode 109. Today’s episode is about how to make yourself work even when you don’t want to. But before we jump in, I want to take a quick word from our sponsor. If you’re looking for a quick and simple way to create customized business invoices, check out FreshBooks. It’s a cloud based accounting software that makes invoicing super easy. And right now, FreshBooks is offering a free, 30 day, unrestricted trial for my listeners. I’ll be sharing the details about that a little later on in the episode. But today, as we continue our journey to finding a new year, true you, our focus is about getting motivated. We’re gonna talk about the basics of motivation and procrastination. Two best friends. So we’re gonna talk about how to jump start yourself when you’re not in the mood to do much of anything at all. And I’ll be sharing six ways to stop procrastinating and get moving.
So have you ever wanted to work on something or tackle a project, but you find yourself just talking about it, and never actually doing it? Some people think it’s because they’re not motivated enough. They think they don’t have the drive or the ambition that’s needed. So they blame themselves, and they feel discouraged about not having the willpower that they think they really need to reach their goals or their dreams. But maybe it’s not only about the internal job or the ambition you have. Sometimes our lack of forward progress could be more about procrastination. After all, you could argue that you’re motivated enough to have the dream or the aspiration in the first place, right? That’s a little bit of motivation right there. So is it really lack of motivation? Or just procrastination that’s keeping you from moving forward? Why do you find yourself time and time again pushing other things higher on your list of things to do? Why are you making important things a lower priority? Basically, why are you stuck at the starting block?
Well, there’s three reasons why we tend to procrastinate. And never leave that starting block. The first one, fear of failure. For some reason, we fear that we’re going to mess things up or we’re going to fail. So instead of trying and learning from any mistakes that we may or may not make, we don’t even take that step forward. Because somehow in our minds we think that doing nothing is better than doing something and possibly failing or falling short of that finish line. The second thing is a lack of knowledge. Many times if we don’t know what we’re doing, or we don’t know how to do something, we let that be a roadblock. Or really just a dead end. Instead of
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just a little obstacle in our path ahead of us. We lack the information or the understanding of something, so we just don’t even move forward at all.
And then the third thing is we don’t feel like it. I mean, quite frankly another reason why we put things off is that sometimes things are boring or tedious. Or maybe kind of difficult. Or maybe even a bit unpleasant. The bottom line is that we usually aren’t in the mood to do whatever it is we should or could be doing ’cause it’s not fun or easy. So instead of just rolling up our sleeves and diving in, we tend to put things off for another time, when we will feel like it, which may never happen at all.
So I want to talk about these three procrastination obstacles – excuses – that I just mentioned. Here are some thoughts and some suggestions to help you work around those hurdles. So let’s start with the fear of failure. And we did a whole episode on fear back in episode 41. But when it comes to fear, you can either freeze and play dead, as if you’ve been attacked by a grizzly bear, and just let life pass you by, or you can face that fear ahead, and take it head on. And try to use it to motivate you to push forward. Really, if you stop and think about it, if you had let fear stop you when you were a toddler, you wouldn’t have learned how to walk. Or ride a bike. None of us were masters on our first try. We had to fail and fall down, and get back up and try again. And fall down again. And wobble around, and try again, and again, and again until we figured it out.
Was it scary getting up that second time, that third time, that fourth time? Yeah! But we didn’t let our fears determine our outcome, did we? So maybe if we can bottle up some of that adolescent courage and use it as adults, it can serve us in the same way. Sometimes a little bit of fear can actually be healthy. As long as it doesn’t have a paralyzing effect, you know, like a bear. For example, if the fear of not completing a task that you’ve said you would do would make you feel embarrassed, maybe that’s okay. Because that kind of fear serves as a motivator. Embarrassment sort of trumps the fear of failure and pushes you ahead.
I think back to when Steve Jobs found out about his cancer diagnosis. And he used his impending death to really push himself forward in his last months of life. He said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” So it helped him not to sit still, not to be complacent, and not sweat the small stuff. He used a bigger fear to push ahead any fears of failure that he might have had. So think about that. That fear really does hold us back.
What about that second obstacle, the lack of knowledge? All right. Here comes a little bit of tough love heading your way. Come on! We live in the age of Google. I mean, you can find anything you want on the internet. A great example of this is my niece, who she wanted to make a xylophone for a school project. She went online, find dozens of videos on how to make different xylophones using all different sorts of materials, from metal pipes, to PVC, to all sorts of other items. You can look up anything online. And either read about it, watch a video about it, listen to a podcast about it. If you don’t know something, you can buy books. You can take adult education classes. You can find mentors. There’s no shortage of information or resources in today’s day and age.
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So saying that you don’t know how to do something, it’s a pretty weak excuse, quite honestly. If you don’t know how to do something, figure it out! Yeah, it might be scary to learn something new. Or to go into unfamiliar territory. But that’s just getting out of our comfort zone. And once you learn it or know it, it won’t be uncomfortable
anymore, will it? You don’t have to know everything when you start. Just gather a little information and use that as your springboard to learn even more. As Warren Buffet says, “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up like compounding interest.” I mean, Warren Buffet’s a pretty smart guy. And he started with no knowledge about what he’s doing. We all start at a zero baseline of what we know. We build upon that and grow, and that’s how we become experts. That’s how we become good at what we do. Starting at nothing and building up bit by bit by bit.
So what about that third obstacle? The one that says, “Well, I just don’t feel like it.” Well, listen. Life is full of doing things we don’t always like doing but we sometimes have to do them. I mean, I didn’t really feel like changing diapers when I had a baby, but it comes with the territory. Right? I had to take the good, the baby, with the bad, the dirty diapers. I don’t always feel like doing the dishes. But I also don’t really want to end up looking like an episode of Hoarders. So we suck it up. We get through the things that aren’t always easy or fun. And the same thing holds true when we’re talking about what we’re passionate about. I love being an entrepreneur. I love owning my own business. But I don’t always love managing finances. Or filing legal documents. Or networking with people I don’t know. It’s not easy. But then again, it’s not as bad as dealing with diapers, that’s for sure!
So keep that in mind. What is the good that comes with the bad? Not everyone feels 100% motivated 100% of the time. Anyone who acts like they do is not really telling you the truth. We all experience moments of wanting to sleep in or skip the gym. Or veg out in front of the TV. It’s okay. We’re all humans! Just remember, if you always wait until you feel like it, you might waste away at that starting block. Instead, sometimes you just gotta lace up your shoes and get to work.
So I want to talk to you about some strategies to overcome this
procrastination, because I know for a lot of people, they feel like, well, I’m always procrastinating. That’s just a part of who I am. So I’ve got some strategies I want to share with you in just a second. But first, I want to talk about briefly about our Podcast sponsor, FreshBooks. FreshBooks is an invoicing and accounting software that helps you create, customize, and send professional invoices to clients. In about 30 seconds. Seriously, it’s that easy. With just a few clicks, you can send branded invoices right from the FreshBooks mobile app. Plus, your clients can pay directly from the invoice. Which means you get paid twice at fast. Can’t get any easier than that, can it? So join the millions of people who are using FreshBooks. And you can try it free for 30 days by going to frsehbooks.com/paradox. Simply enter productivity paradox in the how did you find us section? And they will get you all set up with your free trial. I really encourage you to give them a try.
Okay, I want to give you six strategies to help you overcome procrastination. ‘Cause I really feel if you use these strategies, you’ll start to see that motivation appearing again and again. So let’s go through them one by one. Strategy number one. Use “if, then”planning. So if you’re not familiar with “if, then” planning, it’s simply a plan that if x happens, then I do y. This type of planning can take out some of the
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guess work, and that hemming and hawing that we sometimes experience. If you think ahead to things that might occur, then you already have a plan B in place to get past that obstacle. And this is, instead of allowing those obstacles to cause a procrastination point, where you have to stop and think about, ooh, what do I do next?
If we can create an “if, then plan”, we know what to do when this obstacle appears. So for example, if it rains tomorrow before my daily jog, then I will stay inside and do 50 jumping jacks, 50 pushups, 50 sit ups, and maybe 50 burpees. No negotiating with yourself to climb back into bed. It’s a commitment to go with plan B. And I think that’s really important. Having that if, then clause there in your contract with yourself. That if this happens, then I’m gonna do this. It takes a lot of that thinking out of it because you know what to do when that obstacle crops up. So that’s strategy number one.
Strategy number two is give yourself a deadline. Giving yourself a deadline makes a task seem and feel more important. More official, if you will. It causes you to take it seriously and carve out time in your daily calendar to chip away at whatever it is. We’ve talked about Parkinson’s Law before. It’s the idea that work expands to fill the time that you give it. So if you give yourself a week to do something, chances are it’s gonna take a week to get it done. But really, it’s not because that task takes a week, but we’re filling it full of stress and worrying about getting it done. So think about limiting your time. Can you get it done in three days? If so, plan to get it done with three days. To force yourself to take action in a more reasonable timeframe. So give yourself what I like to call containers of time to work in. So by having a deadline, we know when we want to have our task accomplished. And that really helps.
The third strategy is to find an accountability partner. You’ve heard me say this a million times. Maybe even a million and one. But sometimes you need someone else to help hold you accountable, to cheer you on, to push you forward. Especially when you’d rather just quit or take the easy path. There’s nothing wrong with setting yourself up with people who will boost your motivation level. Leaning on others, or allowing others to motivate you isn’t failing. It’s setting yourself up for success. So get an accountability partner, whether that’s a group, or an individual. Find someone who’s gonna help push you along.
The fourth strategy is to start with small steps. Even if you start by spending five or 10 minutes on something, that will be the spark you need to get the momentum going. If you have to work on a report, and you spend five minutes opening up your computer, starting an outline, chances are once you get past that first hurdle of being stuck, your momentum’s gonna grow, and you might find yourself in a groove working way past the five or 10 minutes that you started with. It’s actually been proven that if you say, you know what? I’m just gonna work on this for five minutes. And it takes you five minutes to get the computer up, get the paperwork out. Generally when you get to the end of that five minutes, you think, I’ve already gotten this far. I’m just gonna keep working a little bit longer. And that’s really when we push through that idea of procrastination.
Strategy number five, don’t forget about habits and automations. Take the thinking out of it. If you can set yourself up with some good habits and some
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automated tasks, that can take the need for motivation out of it all together. Even when we’re not feeling like it, we brush our teeth because why? It’s a habit. We do it without thinking. We don’t need to be motivated to brush our teeth. Unless it’s date night of course, and that’s a different story! But use your habits to your advantage. If you want to write a book, set a habit of carving out exactly the same time each day to write for 30 minutes. Maybe it’s after lunch. But it’s something that happens each day without worrying about where you’re going to squeeze it in. 30 minutes, 30 minutes, 30 minutes. That time adds up and gets you even closer to your big goals.
The sixth strategy is to focus on emotions, not the actions. Think about how you’ll feel when you’ve accomplished the task. Think about it. Have you ever organized a cabinet or a drawer, and then later in the day, you go back by just to open it up and take another look? Ah! I love that feeling! That feeling when you get when you look at what you’ve accomplished. Where the clouds have parted and the rays of sunshine come down. And you feel so good. That’s what I like to focus on. That feeling of satisfaction and excitement. That feeling of accomplishment.
When I have something I don’t really want to work on, I channel my inner Tom Hanks from Castaway. Remember, he’s on that deserted island where he’s working and working and working and sweating away, trying to get a fire going. And then he gets a tiny, little spark. And then he begins piling logs and leaves on top to make this massive bonfire. And then he yells, to no one at all, ’cause he’s all alone, “I have made fire!” That’s the emotion that I’m talking about. That’s the feeling where you want to beat on your chest and say, look at what I’ve done! Pride and satisfaction, big, huge, gigantic motivators. Use that to your advantage. Thinking ahead to that feeling that you want to have when you look back and see what you have done.
Which leads me to our internal versus external locus of control. So I know I’ve talked about the locus of control in the past, in episodes 45 and 66. So I just want to touch on it really quickly today. Because this mindset is very important when it comes to jump starting our motivation. As a reminder, our locus of control is a concept that Julian Rotter brought to light back in the 1950s. And it’s basically the extent to which people believe they have the power to control events in their lives. If you have an external locus of control, you believe outside factors and forces are in charge of the outcomes of your life. If you tend blame these external influences, like luck, fate, the universe for everything that happens to you.
If you have an internal locus of control, then you believe that you can influence or control events and outcomes. That your personal decisions and actions, your choices, that affects your fate as opposed to the other way around. Now obviously, there are external things that none of us can control, like the weather. Or maybe an illness or a death in the family, but you can try to look at situations and see what you do have control over. And use that to your advantage. Why not help control your destiny? Simply going from thinking about something to actually doing it can increase your chances of success.
For example, saying I’m just not a morning person. That’s an excuse. That’s saying, I don’t have any control over whether I’m a morning person or not. But here’s the truth. You really can choose to change that to alter your outcome. Sometimes we get really caught up in an identity we have for ourselves. And we find it really hard to
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break past it. The “I’m not a morning person” is a great example of this. Maybe you’ve been told all your life, you’re not a morning person. I was. I was always told that. My parents would tease me about it, and they were pretty quick to point out that I was grumpy early in the day. And yes, that was true when I was 12. I would stay up till like two in the morning reading books. And I’d wake up like a bear.
And I started thinking of myself as only being a night owl. That was something that defined me so the idea of waking early seemed ridiculous. I didn’t think it would ever be something that I could do. I didn’t ever think that I would be a morning person. It wasn’t something my body would agree with. I didn’t have any control over that because I am not a morning person. But you know what? I went through a period in my life as an adult where I was having terrible insomnia. And I was waking up every morning at like three or four. And I’d lie there awake, staring at the ceiling. And one day I decided, you know what? I’m just gonna get up. I’m gonna start my day because I’m just lying here, doing that thing where you think to yourself, if I go to sleep now, I can get like three hours of sleep. Okay, if I go to sleep now I can get two hours of sleep. You know what I’m talking about?
So instead, I got up. I went out. Sat on the couch and I worked. And I found that I loved this time. I didn’t like it. I loved it. The house is quiet. I’m all alone. Fireplace is burning next to me. I get so much work done, it felt amazing that I had so much done before my family was even up and moving. So I did stop having my insomnia issue, but I haven’t stopped loving my early work hours. When I’m excited about a project, I will happily get up around 4:30 in the morning just so I can dive into the work I wanna do. I choose to do that so I can make time for the passion projects in my work and in my life.
So think of it that way. Think about, even though you’ve identified as this one thing, it doesn’t mean you have to define you for the rest of your life. Maybe you were thinking just like I was. I’m not a morning person. Maybe you need to give yourself a chance to discover who you really are. Don’t let the things that identify you be what defines you. You define who you are. I know it can be hard to get up off that couch. To get that spark to go to the gym, or to tackle the garage to clean it out. It’s easier to talk or think about things than it is to really pick up the pen and start writing that novel that you’ve been talking about. It’s easier to scroll through Instagram than to learn something new, when you’re wanting to start a new business.
You have to find a way to push past fear and doubt. And everything else that’s in your way. Newton’s first law of inertia says a body at rest will stay at rest. And a body in motion will stay in motion. Get out of that starting block. Start moving past. You have the power inside of you to move forward, to make things happen. So I want to encourage you, use one of these strategies this week, see if it doesn’t help. See if it doesn’t get you just a little bit closer to where it is you want to go with your life. I promise you, it can make a difference.
Okay, I hope that really helps get you motivated. Now I want to do something different today. I want to start something new. I want to start closing in with a new section of the podcast where I read one of the reviews on iTunes or Instagram or Linkedin, or any of the places where you can let me know what you’re getting out of this podcast. And if I happen to read your review, I want you to email my team with your address, because I will hand write you a thank you note. Because it means that much to me. I love the reviews. I love the shares on social media because it allows me to see what the podcast is doing for you. And it helps us spread the messages of this podcast far and wide, helping us to impact as many people as we can.
So let’s go ahead and do the weekly review. Here’s the review from this week, and it’s from iTunes. “I’ve been using inkWELL Press planner to organize my life since the very first launch. The planner, coupled with this podcast, have helped me change the way I balance my work and life. I’m more thoughtful and mindful with my time. I learned to say no to things that didn’t serve me or my family. And most of all, I found real life lessons to find more peace to my world.” That review is left by Stephanie. And Stephanie, I cannot begin to tell you how happy it makes me. Those words you used there – bring more peace to my world. Oh, it feels so good. So I want to encourage you to reach out to my team with your address so I can hand write you a thank you note.
And for everyone else, leave a review wherever you listen to the podcast. Share a note about the podcast on Insta stories or your Instagram feed. And don’t forget to tag me so I can see it and comment. You can do that on Instagram or Facebook or wherever it is. Hearing how the podcast helps you truly makes my day. Talking about motivation this week. That’s what motivates me. Okay, next week we’re gonna continue talking about new year, true you. With a special guest that I absolutely know you’re gonna love because I simply adore this woman. Can’t wait to share her with you. All right. Until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox. To get free access to Tanya’s valuable checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast.